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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Introducing the Grolar Bear. Let's discuss implications.

Let's discuss this - if the grolar bear persists and the polar bear goes extinct, could we maybe be happy about that? In the same way that people seem thrilled that neanderthals "live on" as part of some of us? Hybridization is a natural phenomenon and part of species evolution, I think its sad if the polar bear goes extinct but this maybe the silver lining as the ice melts....well of course, provided that people stop poaching them and selling their pelts to the highest bidder-MA

From Scientific American
Polar-grizzly bear hybrid found in Canada
By John Platt

An extremely rare "grolar bear"—a polar-grizzly bear hybrid—was shot and killed by an Inuit hunter in Canada's Northwest Territories last month.

Global warming has reportedly been driving grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) farther north in search of food, bringing them into polar bear (U. maritimus) territory. Polar bears, meanwhile, are finding themselves stranded on land instead of their usual sea ice, bringing them into contact with the grizzlies.

This is only the second time that a grolar bear has been encountered in the wild and confirmed, but even with its rarity, it is more distinctive than expected. DNA tests released by the N.W.T. Environment and Natural Resources Department reveal that this was actually a second-generation grolar bear—meaning one of its parents (its mother) was already a polar-grizzly hybrid. The father was a purebred grizzly, the tests found.

The hunter knew he had something unusual, which is why he asked to have it identified. The bear had the polar bear's white fur but a bigger head, brown paws and longer claws more typical of a grizzly bear.

The first grolar bear confirmed in the wild was killed by a hunter in 2006. A few others have been born in zoos.


Bear shot in N.W.T. was grizzly-polar hybrid, could be first 2nd generation hybrid found in wild

Biologists in the Northwest Territories have confirmed that an unusual-looking bear shot earlier this month near Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., was a rare hybrid grizzly-polar bear.

The unusual-looking bear caught the attention of biologists after David Kuptana, an Inuvialuit hunter, shot and killed it on April 8 on the sea ice just west of the Arctic community, formerly known as Holman. The bear had thick white fur like a polar bear, but it also had a wide head, brown legs and brown paws like a grizzly. Kuptana said he shot the bear from a distance after it scavenged through five unoccupied cabins near Ulukhaktok, then tried running toward the community.

Wildlife DNA analysis shows the bear was a second-generation hybrid, officials with the N.W.T. Environment and Natural Resources Department said in a news release Friday. The bear was the result of a female grizzly-polar hybrid mating with a male grizzly bear, according to the department. "This confirms the existence of at least one female polar-grizzly hybrid near Banks Island," the release said. "This may be the first recorded second-generation polar-grizzly bear hybrid found in the wild."

Kuptana told CBC News he is currently selling the bear pelt to the highest bidder and has received calls from across Canada for the unique pelt. "Right now, we're already at $15,000, and we're going to see how far we can go," Kuptana said Friday. "If we can do better, we'll be happy."

The N.W.T.'s first confirmed "grolar bear" was shot by a U.S. hunter in Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., located on Banks Island, in April 2006. More DNA tests are planned to determine whether the bear shot this month was related to the one from 2006.

Hybrid bears will likely become more common in the North, as the direct consequence of climate change, predicts Brendan Kelly, a marine biologist with the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In the absence of summer Arctic sea ice, polar bears are stranded on land and come into more contact with grizzly bears, he said. "We're taking this continent-sized barrier to animal movement, and in a few generations, it's going to disappear, at least in summer months," Kelly said. "That's going to give a lot of organisms — a lot of marine mammals in particular — who've been separated for at least 10,000 years the opportunity to interbreed again, and we're predicting we're going to see a lot more of that." Kelly said he has seen reports of harp seals and hooded seals interbreeding, as well as beluga whales and narwhal. Interbreeding helps species adapt to major shifts in their environments, he said.

more info: Grolar Bear/Pizzly Bear/Prizzly Bear on Wikipedia

Thanks to Chrissie E for the link

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